Feeling the fall

Leaves, air, equinox: Feeling the fall

The shift in seasons from summer to fall is upon us, beginning with the harvest moon last weekend into the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22.

Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. I love to watch the leaves change colors as I pass the park near my house, and I love feeling the cooler air in the mornings and evenings, even when the afternoons still feel warm! I especially love sweater weather and the sound of leaves on the streets. Fall brings up the word  “cozy” for me.

Equinox means “equal night” and celebrates a day of balance – day and night are approximately the same length on this day.

A note about the transition from summer to autumn – you might experience some anxiety this season, and that’s ok. It may come from added stress at the beginning of a new school year, less time spent in the sunlight or outdoors, the expectation of the upcoming holiday season, or just a shift to a slower pace and more time spent indoors. The combination of reduction in sunlight (contributing to reduced levels of serotonin) and increased melatonin can cause feelings of sleepiness or depression. Here are some ways to embrace and flow with this seasonal shift in mood:

1.    Get more light – The cooler weather is the perfect time to get outside, take a walk in crunchy autumn leaves, absorb that wonderful golden light, notice the changes in the greenery and foliage around you.  If getting outdoors is difficult or not possible, think about investing in a light therapy box to increase light absorption.

2.    Move your body – Experts recommend 30 minutes a day of movement/ exercise to boost your mental health, but really any amount of movement is going to be beneficial.  Try a yoga class (here!) or a long walk outside for gentle movement to get started.

3.    Start something new – Start a new book or project to spark creativity.  Learn a new skill or revisit a hobby or some other enjoyable activity.

4.    Change your perspective – Imagine the coziest of scenes. What do you need to feel good in autumn?  The Danish concept of “hygge” means to encourage wellness by making your space cozy and comfortable.

Thinking and writing

Fall always seems like a time of reflection to me. We haven’t yet started the holiday busyness that can make the end of the year feel, well, busier and a bit more stressful. In my therapy practice, I encourage folks to use journaling as a means for reflection and exploring experiences and feelings as they come up in our work together. Sometimes journaling might look like stream of consciousness – get it all out on paper and sort through it. I also find journaling prompts helpful to dig into themes a little differently or with more direction or depth. If you haven’t tried journaling before, maybe this autumn season is a time to try it out. Maybe you have been feeling anxious or sadness and can’t exactly identify what those feelings are related to in your life. Journaling is a one way to explore without judgment – accepting whatever comes up with kindness and curiosity.

Here are a few autumn thoughts to consider:

Harvest – What abundance did I notice and experience this year? What are the things that I’ve put my energy, hard work and effort into this year?  What kind of growth has shown up in my life in the past few months?

Balance – What are the places that feel balanced in my life right now? What about not so balanced? What might bring those things closer to feeling aligned with my values or energy levels?

Preparation – Autumn is a time of preparation for the colder months ahead.  Things in nature are dying off and shutting down in preparation for being dormant for a period of time. Are there any habits or beliefs to let go of right now? What can I let go of that no longer serves its purpose in my life?

I love this thought written by naturalist Hal Borland:“For the Fall of the year is more than three months bounded by an equinox and a solstice. It is a summing up without the finality of year’s end.”

The “summing up” can mean reflection or gratitude or abundance or preparation, but it is not the end, it’s just a period of transition found both in nature and in our spirit. Happy Equinox!

Melody McArthur, MA, LCP, is a licensed professional counselor. She has a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. You can contact Melody at 314-309-9515 or melody@treeoflifecounseling-stl.com.

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